UPS is firing 250 Queens, N.Y., drivers for walking off the job during a 90-minute protest in February.
The company dismissed 20 of the workers after their shifts Monday and issued notices of termination to another 230 employees, notifying them that they will be fired once the company has trained their replacements, UPS spokesman Steve Gaut told Business Insider.
The strikers, who Daily Kos says make up about half of the Queens-area driving fleet, claim they were supporting a worker who had been fired. However, Think Progress found the union contract, which is pretty specific as to how strikes and other disruptions can occur:
No steward shall have the authority to call a strike, cause a slowdown, or take any other action which would interrupt the Company’s business, except as such action may be authorized by the union. The Company recognizes this limitation upon the authority of the Steward.
Think Progress says the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has made it clear that “all workers, both unionized and non-unionized, are supposed to be able to strike without being fired,” and Wal-Mart was prosecuted by the NLRB last year for violating this rule. However, the NLRB’s language is, as is typical for bureaucrat-ese, nearly impossible to effectively navigate. But this section stood out to me (admittedly, a layperson when it comes to labor law):
Strikes unlawful because of timing—Effect of no-strike contract. A strike that violates a no-strike provision of a contract is not protected by the Act, and the striking employees can be discharged or otherwise disciplined, unless the strike is called to protest certain kinds of unfair labor practices committed by the employer. It should be noted that not all refusals to work are considered strikes and thus violations of no-strike provisions. A walkout because of conditions abnormally dangerous to health, such as a defective ventilation system in a spray-painting shop, has been held not to violate a no-strike provision.
But the company is not backing down. UPS told Huffington Post through a spokesman that “employee misconduct” would not be tolerated, given its impact on customers:
“We simply cannot allow employee misconduct that jeopardizes our ability to reliably serve our customers and maintain order in our delivery operations,” UPS spokesperson Steve Gaut wrote in an email to HuffPost. “For this reason, the company is releasing employees involved in the work stoppage.”
And when union benefactors in the city’s political system started getting into a tizzy, UPS said they could take their business elsewhere:
“UPS appreciates its business with the New York public offices,” Gaut said. “Ultimately if that business is reduced or eliminated, the result will be reduced need for UPS employees to serve the pick-up and delivery requirements of City offices, potentially impacting the livelihoods of the many local UPS employees that did not join in the illegal work stoppage.”
Good for UPS for standing up for what should be standard work requirements: Follow your contract, work hard, or get fired. Disrupting the work force in this way is not the appropriate way to handle most internal issues, unless you are willing and able to deal with the consequences of your actions.